Punjabi Sikhs

When did Punjabi Sikhs first come to Canada?

Punjabi Sikhs first started moving to Canada in the late 1890s and early 1900s, accelerating in the 1970s and especially the 1980s, with a huge surge in the last five years. They continue to immigrate to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in large numbers annually. Thousands of new Sikh-background students now come each year to the GTA colleges to study then obtain work permits, get jobs, and sponsor their families to immigrate here from India.

Where do Punajbi Sikhs predominately gather in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)?

At least 160,000 Punjabi Sikhs gather in the Brampton area.
Population estimate in the GTA:  250,000+

What are Punjabi Sikhs' lives like?

  • Many Sikhs arrive in the GTA with wealth already built up from their lives in Punjab and live in large elegant houses in Brampton.
  • Seriously committed Sikhs do not drink alcohol. However, one of the painful truths for some Sikhs in the GTA is a serious drinking problem.
  • Many Sikh men work very long hours and time with their wives is very limited, sometimes leading to serious emotional distance between them. Also, there is often tension between multiple generations of Sikhs living under one roof.
  • Sikhs are typically very hard workers and thrive in multiple job sectors, including real estate, trucking, law, healthcare, auto-repair, and more.
  • Sikhs are a very proud people with deep feelings that occasionally come out in the open. They have a protective warrior mentality much due to their history of being persecuted.
  • Sikhs in the GTA, especially older individuals, have a tendency to not assimilate into the wider Canadian culture and tend to keep to their own cultural community.

PRAY
for Punjabi Sikhs in the GTA

  • Pray for Sikhs’ quest for peace, justice, and union with God to lead them to the life and teachings of Jesus.
  • Pray for the Lord to connect Sikh-background followers of Jesus together to develop a Sikh-ministry network especially in Brampton.
  • Lord, raise up labourers among Sikhs in the Greater Toronto Area to share the gospel, disciple believers, and start churches.
  • Lord, use an existing Punjabi church in Brampton to reach out to Sikhs. Help these church members overcome fear, self interest, and negative thoughts toward Sikhs. Help Sikhs to clearly hear the gospel from these Christians in their language.
  • Lord, lead other Indian Christians to pray for, and minister among, the Sikh community. 
  • Lord, we know that Sikhs in the Greater Toronto Area have been victims of hate crimes. Use Christians to show Sikhs the power of Christ's love.

Prayer Resources

Prayercast is a website dedicated to activating prayer around the world.
For prayer resources on Sikhs, click the Prayercast logo.

What do Punjabi Sikhs believe?

  •  Sikhs are monotheistic but believe that God can be approached or attained via multiple religious avenues as long as an avenue is monotheistic—people from other faiths are not to be converted because they view all monotheistic faiths as of the same God.
  • Sikhism flourished historically because of the number of people opposed to Islam and Hinduism.
  • Sikhs want to always focus their minds on God (Waheguru, or wonderful teacher) who is fearless, unconstrained by time/space, is not or ever will be human, was not born, and will never die.
  • God is without form, infallible, imperishable, immortal, and indescribable, loving everyone as much as possible, even at the moment of death.
  • Many Sikhs believe in reincarnation.
  • Sikhs value service to humanity, equality of human life, and faith in one omnipotent God.
  • Sikhs are to be spiritually/physically disciplined and do acts of charity/compassion, work hard, live honestly, avoid selfish desires, and believe in one omnipotent God.
  • The final goal of a Sikh's life is to be united with God. Some believe in heaven/hell.
  • Sikhs have a history of martyrdom and suffering for their beliefs. The final human guru, Gobind Singh, declared before his death that the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy book, is alive and that the Guru’s spirit is in the Granth and the community (Khalsa) of at least five gathered pure (initiated) Sikhs.
  • Sikhs gather and worship in a temple known as a gurdwara (door to the guru), usually sparsely furnished without altars, statues, or idols. Gurdwaras are generally open to the public and serve free daily communal meals around the clock.
  • Sikhs reject religious rituals, animal sacrifices, pilgrimages, or fasting.
  • Sikhs adhere to the significance of what are called the 5 K’s:
    • Kesh – uncut hair (men wrap theirs in a turban).
    • Kanga – a wooden comb to hold the hair.
    • Kara – an iron bracelet to remind them to do good.
    • Kachera – a long cotton undergarment that promotes modesty and self control.
    • Kirpan – a small sword kept at the waist, to be used only in self defense or protecting others.
  •  Worship consists of mainly Sikh males reading the holy book (Guru Granth Sahib) in 2-hour shifts, with worship music sung to by worship leaders using instruments called a tabla and harmonium.
  • Males/females sit separately on the carpeted floor in the worship hall listening, meditating, praying, sometimes reading small portions of the Guru Granth Sahib, giving offerings, and receiving Karah Parshad—a sweet made with equal portions of whole-wheat flour halva, clarified ghee butter, and sugar, and which is usually given into cupped hands with a napkin.
  •  Sikhs are supposed to read five verses from their holy book daily and pray five times daily.
  • Sikhs cover their heads and remove their shoes inside the gurdwaras. They bow before their holy book in any gurdwara room in which it is kept.
  • Money offerings are left in front of the holy book, and grocery offerings are made in bins or barrels in the gurdwara langar (communal dining hall). 

Quick Facts

Test
Place of Origin:  India (Punjab State in the far north).
Primary Language:  Punjabi
Secondary Languages:  Hindi, English
Religion:  Sikh (primarily Chamar and Jat) (70%); Hindu (28–29%); Christian (1–2%)
Population:   25 million
Founder of Sikhism: Guru Nanak
Date Founded:  Late 15th / Early 16th century
Holy Book/Text:  Guru Granth Sahib
Holy Site:  Golden Temple in Amritsar, India

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